12 fire engines, two water tankers pressed into service

A massive fire broke out at the city’s main garbage dump at Ariyamanglam, off the Tiruchi-Thanjavur highway, on Tuesday afternoon, sending the Tiruchirapalli City Corporation officials and local residents into a tizzy.

This is the first fire incident at the garbage dump this summer. However, such fires have become a regular feature. Tuesday’s fire was much larger in scale with thick cloud of black smoke hanging over the residential colonies.

Fire reportedly broke out at least two places across the 40-acre dump. Apart from 12 fire engines from the Fire and Rescue Services from various fire stations in Tiruchi and Pudukottai district, two water tankers — one from Tiruchi and one from Pudukottai — were also pressed into service. The corporation also sought the assistance of BHEL Fire Service to bring the fire under control. The fire broke out around 3 p.m. and was still raging till late in the night.

S.P. Saravanan, former councillor who has been campaigning for shifting the dump, termed the fire unprecedented and said residents in Jaganathapuram and Venkateswara Nagar were being forced to move out of the area.

“The thick smoke is causing suffocation. I have closed my unit and moved out. Some other residents in Jaganathapuram are moving out of their houses,” said G.V. Gurusamy, who runs an ancillary unit at Ambikapuram.

Coming at the height of summer, the heat became unbearable for those living close by, said M. Rajagopal, a carpenter who lives at Anna Nagar close to the dumping yard.

Persistent demands from the local people to shift the dump had been ignored by the civic body. Over 12 lakh tonnes of solid waste has accumulated over the past couple of decades . Every day, about 400 tonnes of garbage generated from the city is dumped there. Faced with heavy pollution from the reeking garbage, people living in and around the dump had been campaigning over the past couple of years seeking steps to shift the dump and to remove the accumulated garbage. The corporation had been exploring various options to solve the problem. A proposal to go in for “scientific closure” of the accumulated garbage, by converting it into green hillocks, on the lines of a project executed in Coimbatore, failed to take off.

Thousands of residents in wards nos. 7, 28, and 29 have been badly affected by the pollution caused by the garbage dump. Several educational institutions are located around it. Apart from the heavy air pollution, the groundwater in the area is getting polluted posing a health hazard. The putrefied garbage attracts a large number of stray animals. Residents have been complained of wheezing and other respiratory ailments owing to the pollution from the dump.

Corporation Commissioner V.P. Thandapani, who inspected the spot, told The Hindu that dumping of more garbage at the dump had been stopped and the civic body was exploring various alternatives.